Monday, August 1, 2016


Freesia flowers used to enchant me as a child with their sideway form. So out of the ordinary, so unusual they looked. So exotic.

Freesia is native to the eastern side of southern Africa, from Kenya down to South Africa. There are about 14 species of freesias.

Freesia is a genus of herbaceous perennial flowering plants in the family Iridaceae, first described as a genus in 1866 by the Danish botanist Christian Friedrich Ecklon (1795-1868) and named in honor of the German botanist and physician Friedrich Freese (1794-1878 /I have not been able to confirm the dates).

The flowers are zygomorphic which means that they grow along one side of the stem, in a single plane. How do they all end up facing upwards? Freesia stems have the unusual habit of turning at a right angle where the flowers begin. This causes the upper portion of the stem to grow almost parallel with the ground. The flowers bloom along the top side of the stalk, facing upwards. The fragrant funnel shaped flowers that are typically white or yellow bloom in the spring. As many as 8 of them bloom on a stem. The plants have 10-40 cm tall stems and just as tall sword shaped light green leaves.

The plants usually called freesias are derived from crosses made in the 19th century between F. refracta and F. leichtlinii. Today, cultivated hybrid forms of a number of Freesia species are the most common. They are named Freesia x hybrida syn. Freesia x kewensis.

The family is currently divided into four subfamilies but the results from DNA analysis apparently suggest that several more should be recognized. The subfamily Ixioideae, which contains nearly two thirds of the species, is mostly African and it contains most of the familiar genera including Freesia, Ixia, Gladiolus, Crocus and Watsonia. Species of the former genus Anomatheca are now included in Freesia.


Members of the family are perennial plants growing from a bulb, corm or rhizome. Freesias grow from a conical corm-a short thick solid food-storing underground stem-1-2.5 cm in diameter. Corms, bulbs and tubers of plants resemble each other.

There is not a lot of information on the internet about freesias and what I could find was too specialized.

All this leaves us with the idea that we can only enjoy them just as I did when I was a child.


  1. I tried to take photos of flowers I saw by the side of the road in Nairobi -- I might have taken freesia photos without knowing it!

  2. Hi Beste - we've known Freesia's all our lives ... somehow! Well I definitely have known the name and flower for as long as I'm aware ... I'm sure I knew them before I went off to South Africa ...

    They have a wonderful scent - I guess not the hybrid forms ... unless they've managed to breed that part in ...

    I used to buy them occasionally for my mother - but without the scent they sort of missed a bit - I usually had other scented flowers with them.

    Cheers - I do love them ... so gentle in their shape and colours ... Hilary

    1. Hello Hilary, It's great to be able to share one's memories about familiar flowers. For the longest time freesias haven't had much scent now. I am going to keep looking for them. Salut, Beste